Mining-related multi-resistance genes in sulfate-reducing bacteria treatment of typical karst nonferrous metal(loid) mine tailings in China

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Sep 14. doi: 10.1007/s11356-023-29203-3. Online ahead of print.


Management of tailings at metal mine smelter sites can reduce the potential hazards associated with exposure to toxic metal(loid)s and residual organic flotation reagents. In addition, microbes in the tailings harboring multi-resistance genes (e.g., tolerance to multiple antimicrobial agents) can cause high rates of morbidity and global economic problems. The potential co-selection mechanisms of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and metal(loid) resistance genes (MRGs) during tailings sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) treatment have been poorly investigated. Samples were collected from a nonferrous metal mine tailing site treated with an established SRB protocol and were analyzed for selected geochemical properties and high throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA gene barcoding. Based on the shotgun metagenomic analysis, the bacterial domain was dominant in nonferrous metal(loid)-rich tailings treated with SRB for 12 months. KEGGs related to ARGs and MRGs were detected. Thiobacillus and Sphingomonas were the main genera carrying the bacA and mexEF resistance operons, along with Sulfuricella which were also found as the main genera carrying MRGs. The SRB treatment may mediate the distribution of numerous resistance genes. KOs based on the metagenomic database indicated that ARGs (mexNW, merD, sul, and bla) and MRGs (czcABCR and copRS genes) were found on the same contig. The SRB strains (Desulfosporosinus and Desulfotomaculum), and the acidophilic strain Acidiphilium significantly contributed to the distribution of sul genes. The functional metabolic pathways related to siderophores metabolism were largely from anaerobic genera of Streptomyces and Microbacterium. The presence of arsenate reductase, metal efflux pump, and Fe transport genes indicated that SRB treatment plays a key role in the metal(loid)s transformation. Overall, our findings show that bio-treatment is an effective tool for managing ARGs/MRGs and metals in tailings that contain numerous metal(loid) contaminants.

Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance; Co-selection; Metal resistance; Potential contributors; Tailings impoundments.